I have been looking forward to seeing Lincoln since the beginning of the year for a number of reasons. For one, it is directed by my favorite director, Steven Spielberg. Also, it stars Daniel Day Lewis, one of my favorite actors, as Abraham Lincoln, my favorite president. Needless to say, this has been on top of my to-see-list for a while, and now that I have seen it, what’s the final verdict? It’s merely fantastic.
I have always been an avid lover of Steven Spielberg. While dropping a few bombs, the number of them compared his successful outings are likened to an ant with a mountain. Known for masterpieces such as Jaws, E.T., and Minority Report, and some lesser in quality but still fantastic films like Munich and War Horse, Spielberg is certainly the icon for modern filmmaking. So where does Lincoln fall on the Spielberg meter? I would say it ranks just above the really good category, but falls short of being an American masterpiece.
Getting just a little in depth with the plot of Lincoln, it is unlike most historical biopic because instead of focusing on a lifelong array of events in a persons life, it focuses on the final few months of Lincoln’s life. More importantly, the film focuses mainly on the politics and backroom debates involved in the passing of the thirteenth amendment. That is the entire plot of the film and the results are very good; at least as good as it can ever be.
The film, while not a masterpiece, is certainly very, very good in almost every aspect. The performances are probably the most impressive aspect of the entire film. Daniel Day Lewis gives an Oscar worthy performance as Abraham Lincoln, capturing everything to the last detail, whether it be the powerful vocal performance or the look of the president that is impeccably portrayed. Lewis, thanks to the makeup artists, looks absolutely identical to Lincoln, and he takes everything I’ve ever though about the late president and splashes it all onto the screen in a sincere and incredibly accurate manner. Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abe, is portrayed by a terrific Sally Field, who, while certainly a little old for the role, is heartfelt and, well, just great when her time comes. The biggest surprise in the film is Tommy Lee Jones, who gives one of the best performances of his career, maybe even Oscar worthy, and is hilariously impacting. The supporting cast also includes Jackie Earle Haley, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Hal Holbrook, a comedic Tim Blake Nelson, and even a strong performance from David Strathairn.
The film, based on the book Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, is adapted to the screen with utmost skill by John Logan and Tony Kushner, offering some spectacular dialogue among characters that capture the essence of the period of the events. Spielberg, who is obviously the best choice to direct this material, directs it with magnificent results. Everything from the opening shot portraying hope in the midst of war to the gorgeous imagery of Lincoln standing in the center of beautiful lighting are of perfect magnitude. As in most Spielberg films, the sweeping score by John Williams is sometimes soothing and sometimes intense, providing more evidence that he is one of the most influential music composers in Hollywood.
It is important to note that Lincoln isn’t your typical Spielberg movie. This film is strictly dialogue driven and that, whether you like it or not, is the only way this film could be made. I am perfectly fine with a dialogue driven movie, when the dialogue is done right. In Lincoln, the dialogue is certainly done right, but it is very, very slow. Being a dialogue driven film with virtually no action and a 149 minute running time, I believe it is safe to make this statement describing the film: it is not a film for everyone, but it’s a film everyone should see. This is Steven Spielberg’s best directorial effort since Minority Report in 2004, and it is one of the best, and most important, movies of 2012.
Run Time: 149 mins
Rated: PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage, and brief strong language
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, and Tommy Lee Jones
Writer(s): Tony Kushner, John Logan, Doris Kearns Goodwin
Director(s): Steven Spielberg